Button Up

Raro Video USA, the recently formed American arm of Italy’s most prestigious video publishing house, continues to demonstrate how little we know on this side of the pond about the classical Italian cinema, most recently with a pair of releases directed by Alberto Lattuada, “The Overcoat” (1952) and “Come Have Coffee with Us” (1970), both of which I review in this week’s New York Times column. Lattuada seems to have followed a path taken by several other directors of the postwar generation, moving from neo-realist principles (“The Bandit,” 1946), to stylish genre films (his 1951 “Anna” is a visually stunning blend of melodrama and noir stylistics) and into a series of dignified literary adaptations (“La Steppa,” 1962), before reinventing himself one last time as perhaps the driest wit of the “commedia all’italiana” of the 60s and 70s (“Mafioso,” 1962). His is another name to add to the list of filmmakers awaiting further investigation (which is to say, more extensive subtitling) that would already include Luigi Zampa, Antonio Pietrangeli, Valerio Zurlini, Luiciano Emmer, and no doubt another dozen or two with whom I am entirely unfamiliar. I’d welcome any other suggestions and amplifications.

Also on the further research front, the January/February issue of Film Comment is out, in which I devote a column to one of my favorite overlooked filmmakers, the immensely sensitive shaper of comic performances William A. Seiter.

146 comments to Button Up

  • Barry Putterman

    Nicolas, there are SO MANY more worthwhile films out there than any of us could possibly see in a single lifetime. When I consider how much more you know about French cinema or Junko knows about Japanese cinema, or Noel knows about Phillipino cinema, it becomes a constant reminder that whatever knowledge I have gathered is only a small proportion of what would be needed to have a grasp of the subject which could be as deep as it is wide.

    As such, I have always been leery of broad theories and canons since they assume a wider and deeper knowledge of the subject than those who champion them probably have. A humbler approach to whatever tentative conclusions we have drawn is called for. Hawks/Bacall/Carmichael got it right; “How Little We Know.”

  • David Boxwell

    From a purely visual standpoint, the Sony Classics MOD rendition of VANINA looks great. Textually, like most RR films, of course, it’s totally problematic . . .

  • mark gross

    Author: David Boxwell
    Comment:
    From a purely visual standpoint, the Sony Classics MOD rendition of VANINA looks
    great. Textually, like most RR films, of course, it’s totally problematic . . .

    Thanks David, for your comments. I had forgotten about the post-production issues, which, as you point out, renders this film extremely problematic. But it’s good to know it’s a handsome looking transfer.

  • Bill DeLapp

    Forgive me if somebody else has already addressed this, but just a quick note that as of Jan. 1 the Fox Movie Channel has split into two: the older Fox movies air from about 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and then the channel becomes known as FXM in the evening hours, devoted to more recent Fox fare like 28 DRESSES and films from other studios such as Paramount’s COACH CARTER and New Line’s SPAWN. The FXM features are presented “with limited commercial interruption” according to a house ad, while the bumper at the start of the full-screen SPAWN cited that it was “edited for content.” The web site still maintains that the older Fox movies will be presented uncut and uninterrupted (I haven’t done my homework on this to confirm), but it’s probably just a matter of time before the channel purges the oldies and becomes more like American Movie Classics.

  • ,,,which may explain the migration of more Fox titles to TCM. A shame; we’ve lost IFC, too, and with HDNet under new ownership (Ryan Seacrest, gak) I’m sure its Movies channel will be made over by summer.

  • Barry Lane

    Fox Movie Channel is near death and probably cannot be saved. TCM is the real deal. As for American Movie Classics, ugh!

  • Alex

    Barry Putterman,

    What’s the point of claiming you watch so many movies when your is in defense of the assertion that Greman, French and British post-WWII movies took the camera to the streets and can’t come up with a substantial number of supportive examples for each case, even the British (forhich you do add three or four film titles)

    Be skeptical of the empirical basis of my generalization about an unusual degree of Italian neo-realist shooting in the streets if you like, but don’t concurrently relax your empirical standards where your generalizations about German, French and even British films are concerned.

    Also, skepticism about broad theories should be tempered for generalization based on claims for the distinctiveness of configurations of traits, for example the generalization that lots of narrative films marked by unusual degrees of on-location shooting, of documentary as well as narrative values, of poor and working class protasgonists viewed in class context AND of critical socio-economic or political perspectives stressing class concerns where made in Italian during rhe post-WWII years.

    The Lele people were not wrong to view their pangolin — a scaled creature that inhabited water and land and trees– as astonishingly rare, though they could not be sure that no pangolin’s showed up elsewhere. As a single film, GREED’s not too relevant to claims for an Italian neo-realist pangolin. The U.S. realist films of the early Depression might suffice to refute claims for an entirely unique ITALIAN “neo-realist” pamgolin of a movement, but might be too few –or simply a subset of the various clusters of “realist” films already assumed by Italian neo-realism.

  • Simone Starace

    By the way, both Rossellini and especially De Sica always claimed to have been influenced by King Vidor’s The Crowd.

  • Alex

    That last two paragraphs of my post of January 21, 2012 at 2:21 am might help illustrate that generalization has a logical as well as an empirical facet. But a focus on configurations of traits does take us beyond the usual limitation to two traits at a time that generally characterizes most relationship betwwen traits at a blog, just as calling for more than an example or three of something gets beyond the empirical standards for these necessarily short discussions. Yes, it’s a bit much.

    Still, my first two paragraphs seem to me appropriate — but the first line should have been pruned to read, say, “What’s the point of claiming you watch so many movies in defense of the assertion that German, French and British post-WWII movies took the camera to the streets when you can’t come up with a substantial number of supportive examples for each case, even arguably the British for which you do add three or four film titles?”

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, this really isn’t all that complicated. All of the countries in which World War II were fought were both severely physically and financially damaged by the experience Not to mention psychologically. As a result, many films in the late 40s were shot outside of the studios in all of these countries and either directly or indirectly concerned themselves with the effects of the war.

    I named a few of the more significant British films. There are many others. I am not in the business of doing statistical analyses. However, if that is a decisive factor for you: where is your statistical analysis of what proportion of Italian films from 1945-1950 could be in any way defined as “neo-realism?”

  • nicolas saada

    POOL OF LONDON, IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, THE BLUE LAMP, BRIGHTON ROCK, NIGHT AND THE CITY to name but a few are striking examples of British neo realist films, and even if NIGHT AND THE CITY was producec atvFOX, almost every department involved was British.

  • mark gross

    Another precursor of neorealism I wanted to mention was the German Documentarian Piel Jutzi, whose 1929 narrative feature MUTTER KRAUSEN’S JOURNEY TO HAPPINESS, is very similar to Vidor’s THE CROWD, but even more uncompromising, shot on the streets & and in the homes of working class families using mostly, I think, non-professionals whose acting is extremely spare and believable. It’s one of the most visceral explorations of working class impoverishment I’ve ever seen, extraordinarily detailed yet visually sophisticated, very dark with amazingly supple camerawork (by the director). I’m not certain if any of the Italian neorealists ever saw this film, but it was a huge influence on Fassbinder, who remade (and updated)the film under the title MUTTER KUSTERS. Jutzi also filmed an early version of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, which is much less substantial than Fassbinder’s but does have the advantage of being shot documentary style, with Jocyean-like montages, on the streets of Berlin.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Even the outdoor scenes to something as lightweight as PASSPORT TO PIMLICO, readily available and firmly established in the canon (I hope – it’s my favorite Ealing comedy), was shot at an actual London bombsite.

  • mark gross

    “POOL OF LONDON, IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY, THE BLUE LAMP, BRIGHTON ROCK, NIGHT AND THE CITY to name but a few are striking examples of British neo realist films, and even if NIGHT AND THE CITY was producec atvFOX, almost every department involved was British.”

    Just as a footnote to Nicolas’ brief list of British post-war documentary-style films, I wanted to mention that Pinewood studios was used during the war for documentary production, so filmmakers from John Grierson’s UPO unit like Humphrey Jennings & Harry Watt were collaborating with John Bolting, Carol Reed & the actor Richard Attenborough (who I believe worked as an editor)which certainly must have had an influence on post-war British film production, in addition to the devastating effects of the war itself.

  • In Finnish cinema location shooting was popular from the very beginning, from the year 1907. Movies were often shot in the summer during the theatre actors’ holiday. That was also the rationale in the summer film productions of Ingmar Bergman who was always a theatre director first. Finnish movies shot on location were usually light entertainment of the most escapist kind.

    I think neorealism is a highly valid concept, and it is also about a passion for veracity, about the dynamics of life in a period of turbulent change, about building a new society from the ruins of war, about exposing propagandistic lies and illusions. It is not just about making a factual record. It is that reality matters so much that it can be a matter of life and death. Why Italians deserve the honour of being called the creators of the great neorealistic film wave is that for them accounts of real life mattered the most.

  • Alex

    mark gross and nicolas saada,

    Thanks for the tips on Jutzi and Brit “neorealist films, though I’d call BRIGHTON ROCK and NIGHT AND THE CITY noir despite their apparent social realist and neo-realist influences.

    Barry, I don’t see how “what proportion of Italian films from 1945-1950 could be in any way defined as “neo-realism?,” or even counted as shot in the streets, has much to do with the exostence of an Itlaian neo-realism movement or mode of film. Did anyone suggest that 1945-1950 Italian cinema was solely or mainly neorealist?

    In any case three cheers for Raoul Walsh’s regeneration DWG’s early realist shorts and ISN’T LIFE WONDERFUL, Vidor’s THE CROWD and ’30S French social –and poetic– realism. the ’30’s Hollywood social problem films (Wellmann’s in particular), ’40s on-location noir and police procedurals, the “realist” turn in ’40s British film and Italian neo-realism.

  • nicolas saada

    Yes, and in France, filmmakers did not break the studio rules until the first new wave films, with the few exceptions of Becker and Clément, who are not well known in the US. Clement directed a very interestin “neo noir” drama called MONSIEUR RIPOIS. A whole section of it is shot on location in London. Very impressive. Becker’s wonderful post war films capture the Paris mood with a similar sense of urgency. I must forget other examples. Maybe mr Coursodon could come to the rescue !

  • Alex

    nicolas, saada,

    Very informative. Haven’t seen any early Becker films besides “Touchez Pas au Grisbi,” “Le trou” (amnd the historical “Casque d’Or”) nor any pre-60 Clement besides “Gervaise” and “Forbidden Games.”

    Good point about the “first new wave films” as the first French films that “break the studio rules.” In his article on his heavily “new wave” “art film,” Bordwell views neo-realiam as a kind of seguew into the “art film,” I’ve always thought “400 Blows” as as much neo-realist film as a characteristic, amture new wave one — and I’d suggest that the so-call British New Wave linked to the writing of Osborne, Brain and Sillitoe and the 1960-ish films of Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, jack Clayton and (resnais stylistic influences aside) Lindsay Anderson provides the closest thing we have to a British break with the Studio systema and to cousin to Italian neo-relism. (Most of this Brit “New Wave” doesn’t strike me as innovative or graceful enough to provide much of an analog to the French New Wave. (“Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” is directed with great grace, but is not quite up to the fluidity of “Les quatre cents coups.”)

  • Barry Putterman

    No Alex, nobody suggested that 1945-1950 Italian cinema was primarily neorealism. However, somebody did suggest that a wave of British films filmed primarily shot on location and dealing with social issues did not exist unless a huge number of titles could be produced on demand and/or a statistical analysis be provided.

    As such, the same criteria for the Italian cinema should apply to what is demanded of the British.

  • Robert Regan

    Alex, I was pleased to see your mention of Karel Reisz, a fine filmmaker who hovered on the brink of greatness throughout his career. Until his death I never gave up hoping that he would finally come across with the masterpiece that I felt he was capable of. Still, his filmography has some excellent high points. Momma Don’t Allow and We Are the Lambeth Boys were the best of the New British Cinema non-fiction films, and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning still looks good. Isadora, The Gambler, and Who’ll Stop the Rain all came very close and are still powerful films today. Coincidentally, I had just revisited the latter last night and still find it the most telling evocation of the mood of the sixties, i.e. roughly ’65-’75. Of course, the right soundtrack for that era is not The Beatles or The Stones, as good and as important as they were, but Credence. They were the sixties, and Reisz knew it.

  • Tony Williams

    As Nicolas pointed out in his Jan 20. posting concerning MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS, popular French (as well as British cinema) does remain “unknown territory” for most people in the West and much excavation needs to be done. So far, research has merely scratched the surface particularly in the rich vein of British film noir that (with the exception of William K. Everson’s pioneering two part article in FILMS IN REVIEW) still needs detailed assessment. To answer Barry’s Jan. 22 observation concerning the interaction of noir and location shooting, I would suggest that Mark’s list of titles in his Jan. 21st posting deal with social issues in one way or another. Also, the role of the British B film dealt with in a recent book by Steve Chibnall notes the excellence of certain 60 minutes shorts that appeared in the late 50s, one starring John Crawford, that deals with the resentment against American forces stationed in the UK much later than the wartime “Over sexed, over here, and over-paid” that still continues the Bonar Colleano phobic stereotype that also occurs in DANCE HALL. Thanks to a dealer on the internet I’m discovering some very interesting French postwar noir films such as LES PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946), that was the last Carne-Prevert collaboration.

    Once British cinema tended to be confined to Ealing Comedy and David Lean (to name two very rigid parameters). But a very rich world exists outside previous definitions, with some good films and some bad ones. Thanks to Nicolas, I’m now going to try and track down MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, I believe that it was Alex who was today commenting on the interaction of noir and location shooting, but other than that, I am very much in agreement with what you say.

    One of the incidental pleasures of having the wonderful William K. Everson with us in New York for many years was the many opportunities he offered to expand our understanding of British cinema. Yet, even to this day, I continue to find unexpected additions and variations which I had not previously expected. I only came across DANCE HALL a few years ago. And another, earlier film called DANCING WITH CRIME even later.

    Part of the problem is the ever present process of canonization. Auteurism, which sprang from an urge to subvert the then existing canon has, unfortunately, produced its own canon. As such, a film like DANCING WITH CRIME gets buried in oblivion since it is assumed that no film directed by John Paddy Carstairs (or William A. Seiter for that matter) is worth examining.

    Another part is that stereotypes never die, either on a race, nation or individual level. Which is to say that while Bonar would certainly be a bone of contention over here, one shudders to think of how all of our various depiction of “silly ass” Brits went down over there.

  • Tony Williams

    Yes, it was Alex. I became fascinated by this thread since I’ve explored the field in depth thanks to my contact Alan Kibble in London who has supplied me with many relevant films.

    I only met William K. Everson once at St. Louis some years ago and it was a very great pleasure listening to him.

    The British noir DANCING WITH CRIME (1946) that deals with ex-servicemen turning to crime in post-war austerlty (Bill Owen as opposed to Richard Attenborough who still ears part of his uniform since he can not afford suits in an age of rationing) tends to be neglected both because of its marginal status and the fact that John Paddy Carstairs directed it. Carstairs became associated with those Norman Wisdom films that grate in the teeth of most British critics to the same extent that Jerry Lewis does for most Americans.

    With canons, some very interesting films do tend to go into oblivion. That is why I find LES PORTES DE LA NUIT fascinating since it touches on that raw topic of involvement with the occupying power on the part of some French citizens, a taboo subject after the liberation. John Sweets, CHOICES IN VICHY FRANCE presents a more complex picture and counterpoints THE SORROW AND THE PITY by taking a more balanced view. The Occupation was definitely the traumatic event for French society stimulating that country’s special brand of noir.

    Bonar represented the masculine GI cinematic alternative for many British misses. That is why he is a major threat both for dreary Donald Houston and Ealing’s Balcon in DANCE HALL.

  • Alex

    Barry,

    But the line about the British New Wave referred to providing “the closest thing we have to a British break with the Studio system” and to “cousin to Italian neo-realism,” not meeting some full set of criteria for neo-realism.

    Moroever, no one ever asked for “a huge number of titles,” for anything. My consternation was about your resolute lack of example about films shot in the streets was focussed on the German and French cases, though I did equivocate about your mere “three or four film titles” for the British case” (in fact, only IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY,LONDON BELONGS TO ME and PASSPORT TO PIMLICO.) As the empirical standard I did settle for in the post alluding to a statistical ideal “inappropriate” for blogging purposes was simply “an example or three.” So I guess guess I did lost my head over your German and French silence in urging more than three UK examples.

    if you’re irked at the very professional acting and ample studio shooting in my suggestion of the British New Wave as kin to neo-realism, you’ve probably got a point. (Seems like a lot of the “outdoor” scenes in all of the films I had in mind but “…Long-distance Runner” might be studio shot.)

  • Alex

    Robert Regan,

    Actually, I personally think of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” as a masterpiece and love the “The Gambler” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” though the former is pretty much flawless as well as powerful and the latter ends with what may be the most heroic buddy film moment of all times.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, this could go on endlessly and there is no reason for it to do so. However, to keep the record straight, I will remind you that the post you directed towards me concerned your assertion that since what I was describing in British postwar film could not be found in Powell & Pressburger, Lean, Reed and Ealing studios, then it must not have been an important historical element. And that was what I was responding to. You also leave out the Crichton films HUE AND CRY and DANCE HALL among my examples.

    As I indicated to Nicolas, I am far less familiar with the French and German films of this period. Each case would be different. The French because they were occupied during the war, and the Germans because they were occupied after the war were in a different position than were the British. However, the physical, financial and emotional effects of the experience would have made “business as usual”, in terms of studio filmmaking, impossible in all three countries.

    I would very much like to hear more in detail about the French and German situations, just as it was so helpful for Junko to tell us more about the Japanese situation.

  • mark gross

    Tony Williams: I was browsing Criterion Forum yesterday & noticed MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS on a list of possible long term releases. We shouldn’t hold our breath, however.

    Barry: I wanted to thank you for reminding me of DANCE HALL, which I do remember seeing in one of Everson’s British cinema classes at NYU, but I had completely forgotteon about. John Paddy Carstairs is also a good name to bring up, for not only did he direct those dreadful Norman Wisdoms (well, fascinating from the perspective of this particular American viewer — probably not all that good, but stylistically consistent all the same) but also a number of excellent noirs.

  • Tony Williams

    Thanks Mark, I’ve got my dealer from TN Monsieur Noir on the trial for Max.

    Norman Wisdom was very popular in Albania during the former Stalinist regime giving laughter to audiences in the same way as Dean Reed’s mixed comic Western SING COMBOY SING did for those in the GDR.

  • nicolas saada

    There is not much nuance involved as far as talking about Occupied France is concerned.Melville made his best film on the matter. Tony, be patient. I want to bring MAX to the United States. I am trying to find a way to show Sautet’s films of the seventies. I am working on it, even though I am very much involved on my next feature film.

  • nicolas saada

    There are dubbed copies of MAX out there on the web. Avoid them at any cost.

  • Tony Williams

    Thanks. I’ll confirm with my source whether the copy I’m after is dubbed or subtitled.

  • david hare

    Tony, there are copies on the internet of Max with custom English subs. Good ones. Maybe Dave can put you in touch with me.
    I watched les Portes for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It’s of interest, certainly to a Carne fan but I have to concede (without wishing to endorse the Carne as Tradition de Qualite crowd) he starts to lose his footing with the end of the war. This from someone who thinks Les Visiteurs du Soir is one of his very finest movies. I think Prevert has lost his footing as well. They don’t seem to be able to find a key or tone to bed down this caustic material and despite appearances to the contrary the collaborator characters, right down to Serge Reggiani’s character, Guy are handled with what I think are kid gloves – Carne almost seems to treat Guy as a misunderstood pretty boy. (Clouzot pitches the same actor perfectly as a traitor in the 1949 Manon.) All through the viewing I kept wishing Clouzot were handling this material. Director and writer seem to be looking back on their great poetic realist past, and trying to find a trope from it to fit this almost impossibly dififcult frosty post war round up of old scores, and grievances. It just doesn’t quite work. It was Montand’s second movie and I like him in it very much – I’m looking forward to watching his first from the same year, Etoile sans Lumiere with Reggianai again.

    I’m interested to here more thoughts about the film, certainly I don’t believe one can simply write off post war Carne in toto as the NV did. L’Air de Paris alone is a textbook of gay subtexts (barely sub, most of them wide open.) Trois Chambres a Manhattan is a catastrophically bad misjudgment in proto-hip, Carne mimicking Louis Malle (if you can imagine.)

  • Tony Williams

    David, Thanks. “Monsieur Noir” from Maryland has just confirmed he has a subtitled copy of Max. However, I’m grateful for the offer of help.

    LES PORTES is certainly a film of “dislocation” in several senses and the latter history of Carne and Prevert bears certain similarities to directors such as Capra and Sturgis who lost their footing when historical and industrial circumstances changed in the post-1948 era. In terms of Guy as a “misunderstood pretty boy,” the young guy in IMPASSE DES DUES ANGES (1948) also resembles him in being a crazy mixed up kid, perhaps a reference to the JD problem in Europe following 1945? IMPASSE is the first M. T. film I’ve ever seen and there I notice a similar incoherence between the fantasy scenes set in the past and the noir landscape of the present, one containing Reggie Nalder whose second film this was.

    No, one can not write off entirely post-war Carne but I think LES PORTES and the whole tradition of European post-war noir needs further investigation. As previous posts have shown, once one erects strict canons some very important work tends to be either marginalized or forgotten such as the taut British B thriller DILEMMA (1962) and THE IMPERSONATOR (1961) given a deservedly favorable mention in Chibnall’s book on the British B film.

  • david hare

    Yes, I think also post war European Noir or even Melodrama/Noir is a better moniker for a lot of these directions than “neo realism”, “realism” or “verismo. But I don’t want to rehash a years old squabble on this board about the function of the neo-realism signifier in Italy…

    There is one profound distinction that marks off French post war cinema from all other post war European cinemas including the English, and that was the way in which the Vichy administration in Wartime France effectively rebuilt the industry from the state of total shambles it was in by 1939. It must have been the only decent thing they did. The centralization and rebuilding of the French industry was obviously of no benefit to artists who had fled, but only to those who stayed, thus perhaps the broad critical stroke of avoidance of Carne (and Gremillon) who stayed, yet others like Bresson, Cocteau, Becker etc avoided the slur. Obviously none of these men were in any way collaborators.) But the cicumstances also clearly helped middling to inferior directors like Delannoy and Christian-Jaques to flourish. Yet Delannoy made perhaps his best films during the period – L’Eternel Retour, although it’s obviously stamped all over with Cocteau.

    I’m also waiting to acquire a copy of Impasse (without subs, no matter) but I wholeheartedly recommend some other wartime MT’s, Val d’Enfer and La Main du Diable. Both superb, highly stylized, and almost like a hark back to Expressionist pre Noir visually. The latter is available on Gaumont Bluray, Val was shown in HD on Euro TV (Arte). Subs are around the place.

  • Tony Williams

    I think Truffaut in his introduction to Bazin’s THE CINEMA OF THE OCCUPATION, or somebody else, mentioned that it was much easier to get into the French cinema during Vichy days than it was in the post-war era as Melville found out.

    Also, if you acquire my email from Dave, I can out you on to a source who has IMPASSE.

  • david hare

    Thanks Tony. It’s always a pleasure to be outed!

    In fact Impasse is on its way!! with subs!!!!

  • Tony Williams

    Hope you enjoy it.

  • david hare

    Tell you later. It just “arrived”.

  • nicolas saada

    David, I have to say that I never liked LES PORTES DE LA NUIT. But we fall in a sort of critical vortex here. i think the film suffers from what others may like. It’s a very uncomfortable film to watch for a French audience like me: the “poetry”, the acting, the dialogue. Everything seemed overdone. But I feel the gap exists in France with American films too. I have American friends who don’t understand why I like Eastwood films for instance.

  • david hare

    Nicolas, one of my greatest suprirses in the last ten years is that I LIKED Portes as much as I did.

    As I’ve said to Tony, I think it’s a failure, and quite clearly this was not a time in which French artists (who had “stayed” but still remained decent human beings) could be rationally expected to make a coherent statement on the Occupation.

    I do think only Clouzot was anywhere near capable at that time of creating responses to the Vichy (as he did in Corbeau) which actually emdodied the sordidnes of life at the time. To his infinite credit he also did this with considerable humor, sardonic as it was.

    It wasn’t just Carne, but Prevert whose spectacular failure to identify and write a non “poetic”/allegorical etc screenplay that finally sinks Les Portes.

    I could not imagine wtaching it with anything like equanimity if I were French. it would be intolerable. (But that’s one of the things that interests me about it.)

    Anyhow the problem remains – we never talk about wartime or post war French cinema. There is a minute handful of people getting it, and watching it, and trying to evaulate it….

    I wonder how many people in fifty years time will see Eastwood as the Renoir of American cinema for this age..
    Eastwood seems to be the only director who understands America is in terminal decline, for instance and then expresses laments for this.

  • Tony Williams

    David, “Val” and “La Main” will soon be available from my source. On the issue of French wartime and post-war cinema, it is really important to see as much as possible and for those of us barbarians who do not speak French, it is difficult unless material trickles down from Quebec cable stations with subtitles.

    THE ASSASSINATION OF PERE NOEL is a fascinating work which can not be direct in meaning but ends by hoping for better things in the future, a meaning that would appeal to both Vichy and Resistance audiences.

    We may also be too near Clint at the moment whose stylistic utilization of noir may well in 50 years time mark him as the cultural chronicler of the decline and fall of the American Empire, if not cinema, as a recent article in cineACTION suggests.

  • nicolas saada

    David, I wish I try to turn my mind into an “anglo saxon” one as much as I can. That’s why I can understand American friends of mine, either filmmakers or critics, when they complain about terrible Hollywood films that get absurdly praised here in France. The latest being the incomprehensible “hype”with stupid comedies, as long as they have any connection with Jud APatow (Granted, he made some interesting films…). But we were seen as completely crazy when we championed Jerry lewis or frank tashlin. At the same time, a lot of French film historians do not get the english idiom or the subtleties of the English language. So they can completely miss major films.

  • Barry Putterman

    Nicolas, try as we might to escape, we all remain resolutely who we are. Sampling other cultural styles is always enlightening but you are never exotic in your home town.

    If the French had to submit to the onslaught of beer, car and insurance commericals while watching American football games, which play like haiku versions of those stupid comedies, maybe they wouldn’t find them so refreshing. And, by the same token, we seem to handle “poetic” touches with all of the delicacy of a Paddy Chayefsky morality lecture.

    Luckily, we can all gather together and celebrate the decline of America in Clint Eastwood movies.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    TCM note: on a night where they are showing several more commonly seen Max Ophuels films, the almost never shown The Exile is on at 10PM PT/1AM ET

  • Robert Garrick

    “The Exile” (1947) is highly recommended. (See note from Tom Brueggermann above.) The film is not well known, but Sarris, in his year-by-year rankings at the end of “The American Cinema,” places it second overall in 1947, ahead of “Odd Man Out,” “T-Men,” “Lured,” “Out of the Past,” “Pursued,” and “Daisy Kenyon.”

    There was a time, back in the ’70s, when “The Exile” was fairly easy to see on commercial television. I probably saw it a half-dozen times on northern California stations back then, and never tired of it. But the film has been tough to see for at least thirty years, and it’s been that long since I’ve seen it.

    There are some amazing sequences. In the deep recesses of my memory, I recall an incredibly complicated shot that involves a porthole on a ship.

  • Alex

    “The Exile,” following the not-quite-so inaccessible “Reckless Moment” and the terrific though truncated “Caught”!

    “…to keep the record straight…. Indeed!